Hannah Smith is not your average detective or captain of a small fishing boat. She is the main character of New York Times best-selling author Randy Wayne White's new book "Gone." It's the start of a new series for the former fishing boat captain turned professional writer.
"I have been so lucky in my writing life, and my life in general, that is a rare morning I don't wake up psyched, ready to work, or also reflect on the fact that, by all that's fair, I should be back running a fishing boat, or climbing telephone poles," said White, who resides on Sanibel Island.
Since leaving home at age 16, and skipping college in the process, White has been a farm hand, a brass and iron foundry worker, a telephone lineman and for 13 years, a full-time fishing guide at Tarpon Bay Marina on Sanibel. In 1990, White kicked off his Doc Ford series with the publication of "Sanibel Flats." Today, 18 Doc Ford novels have followed and White is starting a new chapter.
"When I decided to start a new series, and had to select from four characters I have come to adore, it was not an easy call," said White. "Hanna Smith was my choice. I loved her from the first paragraph she dominated in my novel Captiva (1995), and she has stayed with me, and has remained a pillar of the Doc Ford saga, even though seldom mentioned in the next 15 books."
His character Hannah Smith is an unforgettable protagonist and descendent to a long line of formidable Florida women who are known for wit, spirit and backbone. In "Gone," Hannah attempts to locate the missing niece to one of her wealthy fishing clients. The missing woman, Olivia Seasons, stands to inherit $90 million and all she has to do to claim it is sign one legal document.
So why would a woman in that situation just disappear?
Hidden within the lush, beautiful scenic setting of Florida's island community is a subculture of crime, greed and lust. Somehow Olivia Seasons has become entangled in this seedy world and only Hannah can get her out. However, during Hannah's rescue mission she also discovers more about the vicious predator who has seduced Olivia.
As her friend Doc Ford once told her, "If you surprise a dangerous man, expect to be surprised."
Hannah must follow a trail of clues that lead her from the enclaves of rich living on Captiva Island to the mangrove swamps of Ten Thousand Islands and places not found on a map. While her character is based on some of the women in White's family, the late Captain Esperanza Woodring of Sanibel Island also inspired the Hannah character.
"In the 1950s, before the bridge was built, there was a sign posted at the ferry landing that read, 'All of our fishing guides are gentlemen except for one and she's a lady,'" said White. "That was Esperanza although even her son Ralph might agree she wasn't always ladylike. The woman was a delight, always intimidating, and a brilliant fisherman. There's a lot of Esperanza in Capt. Hannah Smith."
In addition to his successful Doc Ford series, White has authored four nonfiction books, two cookbooks and seven novels under the pseudonym Randy Striker. He is the winner of the Conch Republic Award for literature and the John D. MacDonald Award for Literary Excellence. His national PBS documentary, The Gift of the Game, which he wrote and narrated, won the 2002 Woods Hole Film Festival Best of Festival award.
He is only one of four writers named as an Editor-At-Large by Outside Magazine. In 2011, White was named a Florida Literary Legend by the Florida Heritage Society. A fishing and nature enthusiast, he has also written extensively for National Geographic Adventure, Men's Journal, Playboy and Men's Health.
"The thing I love most to write about," he said, "is Doc Ford and his friends at Dinkin's Bay. I was a light tackle fishing guide at Tarpon Bay Marina for 13 years and the Ford novels afford me the opportunity to revisit a time, and people, about which I care deeply."
White can regularly be found at Sanibel's Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille, where he will be signing pre-ordered books from noon to 2 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 2-3. He will return to Sanibel Island Sept. 6 at 5 p.m. at Sanibel Bookshop. Additional local stops include Fort Myers Barnes & Noble at 7 p.m. Sept. 4 and Sept. 24 at Doc Ford's Fort Myers Beach.
For more information about White, visit www.docford.com.